Deadly Blockade of Armenian Christians

May 01, 2023
The Artsaque or Nagorno-Karabakh flag, based on the Armenian flag with a white chevron to signify isolation

The Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, has for several weeks been subject to a blockade which is increasingly taking on the aspect of ethnic cleansing, of which Christians are the first victims, without the international community having so far really given the means to act.

Work of the Orient has just sounded the alarm: In April 2023, four months had already passed since the Armenian Christians of Nagorno-Karabakh have been trapped in the blockade by their Muslim neighbor, Azerbaijan. It is a blockade that is literally asphyxiating the population.

At present, 120,000 human beings are trying to survive, with nothing. No food, no gas, no electricity, no medicine – from aspirin to chemotherapy – no soap, no detergent. No diapers for infants, and generally basic hygiene products for men and women are no longer available.

A situation so dramatic that the Work of the Orient denounces it as being “the same spirit that presided over the Armenian genocide of 1915.” Moreover, since 2020, the Azeri president has not hidden his intention “to erase the Armenians from history and geography.”

To understand the drama being played out behind closed doors, one must remember that Armenia is considered a cradle of Christianity. It is the first Christian nation by the baptism of King Tiridates IV in the 4th century, evangelized by Gregory I the Illuminator.

But these people have encountered many sufferings in their history. In 1915, more than a million people perished in the Armenian genocide, orchestrated by the Muslim Ottoman Empire. This first genocide of the 20th century was commemorated on April 24.

The period between 1918 and 1920 saw the formation of two independent states in the region: Armenia and Azerbaijan. The two states simultaneously claimed one of the strategically important regions: Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Nagorny-Karabakh. This region is mainly populated by Armenians, but surrounded by a population of Azeris.

Under the domination of Soviet Russia, two republics were created: Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the conflict continued. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Nagorno-Karabakh proclaims its independence as the Republic of Artsakh, which resulted in a war between Armenians and Azeris, at the expense of the latter. That was in 1994.

Thanks to the support of its Muslim Turkish big brother – but also of Israel – Azerbaijan has been able to acquire the latest generation of weapons. But above all, with the deployment of around two thousand Syrian mercenaries experienced in jihad – kindly dispatched by Recip Tayyep Erdogan – the Azeris relaunched the war in the fall of 2020, this time to their advantage.

The autumn 2020 war led to a latent conflict around the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. In September 2022, many Armenians died and thousands more had to leave. And since last December, the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, the Lachin corridor, has been blocked by Azeris.

For its part, Russia, a key player in the region, is in a delicate situation because of the war with Ukraine. Anxious to spare its Turkish ally, whose support is more than ever essential to it, Vladimir Putin does not seem really ready to help Armenian Christians. The defense of orthodoxy still has its limits.